Outline Marketing Strategy plan
The marketing strategy and plan outlines how you intend to attract customers, what you consider to be success and the steps you will take to implement the plan.
As with all plans it needs to be flexible as each strategy will be different.
In addition, it should create a framework which allows for an iterative approach to testing and implementation. There is nothing worse than trying to stick with a plan that isn’t working exactly as expected, so each step should be seen as a hypothesis that needs to be tested rather than a prescription carved in stone.
Most importantly, this is about the customer and what is the best way to communicate with and influence them to demonstrate how you are the best solution to their problems. It should not be a justification of your favourite marketing technique or spend that you have already committed to.
Similarly, don’t stress about the language or the text, it needs to express how you understand the problem and what you intend to do about it, rather than be consistent with the current buzzwords and trends. It just has to work for you.
This document will outline the sections involved, offer some insight into what the section is supposed to include and an example to illustrate how this might work in practice.
Where specific content needs to be expanded on, this will either be included as a sidebar in Italics, reference Appendices or separate documentation.
Section 1. Who is the customer
At the heart of your marketing strategy is the customer. This is the entity that benefits from the work that you do. They have a problem that needs to be solved or a goal that needs to be reached and will seek mechanisms to achieve this goal. The size of the benefit will define how actively they search and how much value they place on the solution.
Your marketing objective will be to influence this entity to act in a certain way, so you need to understand how they benefit and how they search for a solution if you are to craft an effective marketing communications strategy.
In a business to business context, there may be different decision-makers, such as accountants, Boards etc, and these may have different requirements and it can be important to influence these decision makers. However, it is important to focus on the person or role that benefits at this stage as they will be the active buyer and will lead any search activities.
In my case, the customer is a small business owner who is either in the start-up phase or whose business is not growing quickly enough or has stalled. I am not looking to speak to large companies, their needs are different and they have the ability to bring skills into the business. They are local, they are likely to be marketing a service or relatively complex product and probably don’t come from a marketing background.
They are motivated but, being entrepreneurs, their first instinct is to do the work themselves, only going to external service providers once they have run out of ideas or most likely resources and knowledge.
They are independent and have personal objectives which drive the business as much as the normal financial objectives
Section 2. How does the customer benefit from your product or service
Consumer decision making is based on an exchange of values, where a customer gets something they want in exchange for something that you want. In most cases this is a product or service that the customer values in return for money, but in all cases, the perception of the value of the product or service is based on how much the customer feels they will benefit from the exchange.
It is essential therefore for you to understand and communicate how the customer will benefit from the transaction. This is not what you do, it is the outcomes in relation to the goals, benefits and solutions that the customer is seeking.
As an example, if your service saves the customer money, the focus of this section is to communicate how much money the customer is likely to save, not what you do to save them money. To communicate this may require you to offer examples that set an expectation in the mind of the consumer along with social proof.
Think of this as a before and after section, briefly describe the customers situation, desires and goals, and how these will be resolved after the interaction in general terms and in the customer’s language.
This is not the functional characteristics of the product, just the benefits and outcomes.
In my business, the customer is seeking advice, guidance and access to skills that they don’t have in the business. The benefit is assistance in understanding how to create a marketing and sales strategy which will grow their business.
Many small business owners have worked with agencies in the past and found the process to be frustrating. They have seen adwords campaigns generate a lot of cost but little traffic, invested in SEO with no tactical response or create a lot of content with no lead generation. Much of this is because the tactics drove the strategy rather than being part of a consistent and integrated plan.
By working with me the customer creates a plan that they are in control of. they understand why each step is being taken, how it will benefit them and influence their customer and how to measure and improve the plan as we go along.
Most importantly, as they have been at the heart of the planning process they feel confident in its potential outcomes, that it is relevant to their business and that they are not dependent on a third party to do expensive work to make the most of the plan.
Section 3. What do I do for the customer
This is a functional description of the product or service that is provided and the mechanisms that are used to provide it.
- Is it a product or service.
- What are the main features that directly deliver the value
This a good opportunity to assess the features and benefits of your product against the customer’s goals and core benefit. Are you communicating products which actually add value or simply reduce a barrier or sales block?
It is also useful at this stage to define what you are not. Feature creep is an inevitable drive, especially in small businesses who feel that they need to meet all of the needs their customers have, but this generally bloats a product and can lead to a suboptimal experience for the customer and inflated prices to cover the cost of product aspects which may not add value to a specific customer.
In my business I act as a mentor and advisor to help the business owner define and refine their marketing strategy and consider new approaches. During mentoring sessions and workshops we will define who the customer is, how the company delivers value to these clients and how we can convert general interest in a subject into sales through and integrated, online marketing strategy.
Where clients are interested in developing a skill that I have, I will provide access to training.
Section 4. Customer journey and relevant channels
The tactical detail will be outlined later, this is a general outline of how the sales and marketing funnel will be outlined.
Communications channels will be broad, such as social media, display/adword advertising and search marketing but should all aim at providing interested and motivated prospects access to a resource that you control and where they have opted into receiving more detailed, specific and sales focussed information.
This may be following on social media, connecting on LinkedIn, subscribing to Youtube channel or website, where you have the ability to target them with individualised messages.
A potential customer will move from an entity that has a rough outline of a need or problem but no idea how to solve it, through a series of steps until they have found and successfully implemented a solution and is satisfied. This is the customer journey and will be different in each case.
For example, for food shopping it may be as simple as visiting a supermarket and choosing staple products. However, for a more complex product it may be a search for information followed by structured decision making around potential solutions and suppliers, followed by a visit to a website to make an online purchase.
Different customer journeys will impact on how you market, do you want them to call? Leave their details? Visit your retail partners? It all depends on your business model.
This needs to consider what channels are going to be important in the sales process ( online, shops, referrals, social media etc), what the search intent is, and what your influence should be.
Leads can come from Search, Email, or Social sources with decreasing levels of involvement and engagement. Leads generated by the search will always convert better than other sources as the client is actively seeking a solution rather than responding to a marketing message. Referrals are obviously the strongest, but should be considered as search as they are actively looking for information on a specific subject from a reliable source of information.
Ideally, all of your communications should be routed to and through your website, as this will boost your Search engine rankings and increasing the number of search-based leads.
Depending on the complexity and competitiveness of the service offering, the intention of the buyer will dictate how you approach your communications at different stages of the journey.
This is where buyer intention comes in. Buyers can be looking for information, to compare products and suppliers or to make a purchase, and how you approach communications is going to change based on this.
At each stage of this process they will require different information and make different decisions, and it is important to understand what those needs are, and how you are going to address those needs and how you wish to influence the customer to move to the next step in a way which is beneficial to both parties.
In my case I know that the majority of motivated clients are in search mode, and I can use this fact to provide information that will help them identify and solve their problems. I know that most of the searches will be done online, so it’s important to rank well for specific search terms and subjects, so domain authority and backlinks are important. I foster this by creating content that meets their search goals and guides them to more detailed, relevant information within my website.
Where and how this happens is dependent on the audience and where the search is likely to happen.
I also know that, as clients may be looking for practical advice on a subject, that video and how to articles are going to be an important tool.
I might produce an article on how to increase revenue, for example as this is the basic requirement my customer has. This will cover a range of solutions, such as avoiding discounting, increasing conversions, increasing leads, Up-sales and cross-sales, widening the product range etc.
I will host this on my site where it will help drive Search engine ranking, but I will promote the article through relevant social channels, often with a cut-down version of the article, and a link to more detailed information on my site. This may be shared on relevant sites like Quora, Linkedin, Warrior forum, small business marketing forums etc.
However, this is not a teaser, there is enough information in the cut-down post to answer the question for a casual reader, leaving the more interested to follow the link to a more detailed answer.
On my site, I can follow several routes. Firstly, I can link to more detailed information, for example, How to avoid discounting, which will keep people on my site longer, and increase the possibility that search engines will crawl my site.
I may also have more detailed information behind an email subscription wall. This is only likely to attract the most interested buyer, and gives me the opportunity to build a relationship that will progress into a lead over time.
Section 5. Messaging
There are two parts of messaging, one relates to the subject matter you intend to produce content or ads relating to and the other relates to how you want to be perceived.
Subject matter research will be a big part of the implementation phase, but you should already have an idea of the kinds of phrases, questions and queries that are common with your customers. Regardless of what you do, you solve a problem, and want to be found by people who want that problem solved. That means you need to think in terms of the questions they ask, not the way you answer them.
The classic demonstration of this is Holes Not Drills. Someone who is putting up a shelf isn’t looking for a 1200w twin speed drill with tungsten carbide bits. They are looking for “How to put up a shelf”. IF your marketing is focussed on the former, they aren’t even going to come across your messaging!
Outline the main subject matter that you want to communicate about, as this will form the basis of your keyword research later, not matter what approach you take.
What do you want people to think about you?
The word positioning is overused, but it essentially means how your customer sees you relative to competing offerings. This is important as it will help you decide what and how you want to communicate.
Do you want to be seen as cheap and cheerful? Fast and efficient? Knowledgeable and credible? Fun and frivolous? Your communications need to be consistent both in terms of approach, content, voice and channel.
Section 6. Communications objectives – how I plan to influence the customer
This is the broad brush communications objectives
Awareness vs engagement vs action.
Depending on the complexity of your product and your target market, your objective may range from name recognition through understanding more about how you are relevant to the customer and to driving a specific course of action. It may also need to cover all three in a specific order.
Where do you think most of your buyers are? is the product simple and commoditised meaning searches are predominantly buyers, or are there many possible solutions to the problem, meaning you need to position your approach compared with others? This will also affect the type of keywords that are relevant to your content work and whether advertising is a viable option.
Actions and Metrics.
What is your preferred outcome? Are you aiming to increase your following on Instagram or Linkedin or do you need to drive specific lead flow? how are you going to measure this and what do you want to achieve?
What tools and channels do I want to use?
In my case, I am seeking to increase awareness of my knowledge and experience as an authority on specific aspects of start up marketing.
As my buyers understand that they want to improve their profitability by growing their revenue, but don’t know how to do this, providing Information relating to possible options will best meet their needs.
I will create content that is hosted on my site and promoted via youtube, LinkedIn and Forums to boost my domain authority and traffic to my site and will measure this using Google analytics.
Section 7. Project plan
This is the plan that you need to follow which will lead to achieving your objectives.
This is obviously going to be dependent on what you are doing but needs to start with:
What do I need to have in place to achieve these results and what time frame will I need to follow.
This might be to have a google ad campaign in place by the end of the month which drive traffic to a landing page which can capture lead information on a CRM
What resources do I need
This is a list of the assets and skills that are needed to fulfil the plan. It could be content, writing skills, keyword research, content ideas, etc.
I will need:
- A list of relevant keywords that I can use for advertising and ad copy
- Access to a google adwords account
- A landing page on the website that can capture the lead and send it to me in a way that I can use to action contact with the customers
- Access to funds to pay for the AdWords
- Access to a google analytics account to collect statistics and measure success
- A website
- A way to respond to the customer that fills in the lead capture form
- Access to my site to amend the lead capture form if it is not working
If I don’t have access to these resources, what steps do I need to take to acquire them?
This could involve steps to learn or to access external resources for a specific skillset.
1. I don’t know what keywords are going to work, I will research them by doing X, Y, and Z
2. I don’t have the time and energy to learn this so I will work with call google’s sales team and get them to help me
3. My web developer needs to add a page to capture the lead, I need to supply content.
This can then be parsed into a timeline and project plan.